AN emergency fund of £900,000 is to be set up in Wirral to help growing numbers of people "in dire need."

The council said the move became necessary in the wake of Government cuts in crisis support "directly targeted at the most needy and desperate."

A report being presented to this month's council cabinet meeting will reveal there are now 14 food banks across the borough serving 12,503 people - 4,498 of whom were children - with emergency supplies.

Charities Wirral Foodbank, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, WIRED, and Energy Projects-Plus formed part of a review panel to look at the impact of cuts in emergency help for the poor and vulnerable.

Their findings have prompted the authority to consider setting aside £900,000 to help those in need and offer an alternative to pay-day borrowing and loan sharks.

Councillor Janette Williamson, who chaired the panel, said: "The withdrawal of Government funding to help families in financial trouble has left a growing number of people in Wirral in desperate need.

"We are seeing food banks opening in West Kirby and Hoylake as well as Wallasey and Birkenhead. Vulnerable old people and young families are being hit hardest."

Councillor Chris Jones, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: "The Government’s actions are directly targeted at the most needy and desperate in our community.

"Like many hard-pressed authorities, we now find ourselves having to be responsible for setting up a local fund to support people who have to resort to a crisis loan.

"A further withdrawal of £1.1m follows the axing of the National Social Fund last year as part of the Government’s welfare reforms. The fund helped people in financial trouble by offering affordable loans to overcome short term financial crisis.

"These loans were then repaid through the benefits system. Wirral Council will continue working with food banks and charities to mitigate, as much as we can, the effect on residents who continue to need our support."

She said most of the crisis loans are small sums for essential food and fuel payments, usually around £5 per day.

The panel's findings will be reported to cabinet on Monday, June 29.